Press Conference – Liverpool Plains

DOUG HAWKINS: Good morning, everyone. I’d like to welcome everyone to the event today. I’d also like to say that this is a fantastic day for the Liverpool Plains community, and I’d like to introduce our Federal Member and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, who has an important announcement to make this morning. Barnaby.

BARNABY JOYCE: Thanks. Thank you very much, Mayor, councillors, the people of Quirindi and Werris Creek, the people of New England. I’ve always, always loved dams. They absolutely blow my hair back – what’s left of it. And what’s really important is that dams underpin the wealth and growth of communities such as Werris Creek, such as Quirindi. Stuck behind a train on the way here, the wealth that’s going in there the growth of that area, incredibly important. And this is important to do it, just like we’re trying to build the Dungowan Dam, just like we expanded Chaffey Dam, just like we’ve got money on the table for Mole River Dam, just like we’ve put money into the Urbenville water infrastructure, just like we put money into the Tenterfield water infrastructure.

Today, another $5 million to take to a total of $15 million that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Australia are putting towards Werris Creek and Quirindi to make sure that this infrastructure, the 8,000 megalitres that supplies the water to the town I used to live in I – I used to live in Gordon Street, Werris Creek – to upgrade that quality, to underpin their economic growth, to make sure – to make sure – that people who are born in Werris Creek, born in Quirindi, can live in Quirindi, can stay in Quirindi, can get a job in Quirindi, can get a job in Werris Creek and have families in that area, build houses in that area and bring growth to that area. But it starts here – water grows growth.

DOUG HAWKINS: I would like to say a special thank you to Barnaby for his funding support of the Quipolly Water Project and his ongoing support of the Liverpool Plains Shire Council and community. This announcement today is part of our economic development strategy. We now have a secure water source. We have a freight strategy and we also have an economic development plan. I’d like to thank my fellow elected councillors who have been supportive from the word go. I’d also like to give a special mention to our Deputy Mayor, Councillor Ken Cudmore, Councillor Virginia Black, Councillor Paul Moules, and Councillor Ian Lobsey, who have been involved in the project, as I said, from the very beginning. So I thank them for their input and thank you very much. Questions?

JOURNALIST: So $5 million worth of funding to a beautiful regional community. What does this funding say about the Federal Government’s commitment to these regional communities?

BARNABY JOYCE: It shows that even in my ministerial role I want to not only provide money for building better regions but actually build the better regions. We can see it in the things that we have done, the things that we are doing and the things that are in front of us. We have a plan. And like the good councillors here who are always lobbying me, the things we have done such as – well, we started with the money from this, and you got the upgrade of this. The things we are doing – we are going to have the treatment works so you can get the water down in a quality that’s important. The things we need to do. Even though we did Merriwa to Willow Tree Road, we’re going to have to have another crack at doing it again. And, that’s just this area. And we go to other areas, the things that we have done – upgrading the Scone saleyards, the Inverell saleyards. The things that we are doing – supporting the sales of record prices for beef, record prices bring wealth, record price for lamb, it’s bringing wealth back into our areas. And the things that we are going to do, which is further upgrades of the Inverell saleyards, further investment in roads across our regions. Right now, I’m working towards drawing up a policy and I’m going to call it Neglected Roads. I had another adjective for “neglected”, but we’ll call it neglected, because otherwise it’s profane. I’m looking at roads that are 20 kilometres or longer. The last 50 years – the last 50 years – there’s been no substantial work on them. No realignment, no resheeting, no changes in surface. I’m saying that we want to make sure that these people in the remotest areas can get the benefit that other places take for granted to try and help them out. They’re the things in the future we are doing. Things we have done – got the money for the Inland Rail. Things that we are doing – building it. Things we are going to do – extend it into Gladstone. Things that will happen – the growth of Parkes, the growth of Narrabri, the growth of Toowoomba, the growth of Goondiwindi. This is showing us with a vision – a vision for now, projects we are doing, a vision for the future.

JOURNALIST: And it’s no secret that people in those remote areas that you have mentioned were hit really hard by the drought. So why is it so important for this water infrastructure to drought-proof this region in particular?

BARNABY JOYCE: There’s nothing scarier than turning on the tap and nothing comes out. That certainly doesn’t help growth and every time a mum turns on a tap to give water to the family, she expects it to be there and she expects it to be a quality able to be drunk. Every time a business moves, one of the first questions they ask is, “Where’s the water? If you haven’t got the water, we can’t invest here.” This is why we’ve got to get moving with Dungowan Dam up the road. We’ve got to get moving. A lot of money on the table. I call on the state government. We've got to get rolling on this. We can’t just wait forever. And because of that dam, whilst that dam is held up, there is 1,100 jobs just on one project – the expansion of [indistinct], that are being held up because of that. We want to bring those jobs into our area, billions of dollars of investment coming with that. And it’s sitting there waiting to go as soon as we start moving the dozers to build Dungowan Dam.

JOURNALIST: How is this project going to directly affect people of the Liverpool Plains Shire?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s the infrastructure that takes the water from the dam, treats it, gets it into the pipeline at Werris Creek. I’ve sat behind a train, a massive train going into Werris Creek. Something that years ago I think I’d never see again. I don’t know what it was – 80 carriages – going into Werris Creek, expanding Werris Creek. And they need the water infrastructure for further expansions and further things they need to do. As we connect the Inland Rail up to Narrabri there is a lot of traffic saying, “Well, we want to get to the Port of Newcastle.” Guess where they are going to go through? Werris Creek. And this is real vision. But if you don’t have the water they’ll say, “Well, better pick another town.” And so this increases the quality, it increases the security, not just for Werris Creek but part of the pipeline that goes to Quirindi, and I hope that other people right down to getting the joy of coming up here and having a picnic and getting around the dam also helps their quality of life.

JOURNALIST: I’ve got some other questions. So what do you think of Tony Abbott’s visit to Taiwan this week? And are you concerned a former PM visiting Taiwan and giving a speech will inflame China?

BARNABY JOYCE: I believe that Tony Abbott is a private individual and Tony Abbott can do what he likes. I’m not going to run down Tony Abbott. He’s a friend and he was a great Prime Minister. I would hope that China and others are robust enough to understand a private individual that goes to Taiwan where 26 million people live is not a diplomatic incident. And I would call always for peace. I would ask – not that they’re ever going to listen to me, right? – but I’m just going to say it so people know what I’m thinking, for a de-escalation in something that if it came to fruition, if it sparked, there’s only one thing that’s going to happen and that is disaster for all of us – for China, for us, for the region. And we go from a win-win situation where everybody’s making a buck back to heading in the other direction, back towards being poor. Is that what you want? Who wants that?

JOURNALIST: And how are negotiations going with the Government over the climate targets for Glasgow, and how important will the issue be in deciding the outcome on the upcoming election?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think it’s incredibly important because so many people are invested in this. There are topics that come along which people have passing interests in and there are topics that come along which people have an incredibly strong interest in, divergent interest, diametrically opposed views, and the issue of politics is you’ve got to try and deal with that and respect those views and take those views to the table and have those views discussed and placate those views and answer those views. That’s incredibly difficult, but that’s what we’ve got to do. I understand the people with concerns. I’ve been down this road before with the Kyoto Protocol. I’ve been burnt once. I don’t want to get burnt again. I don’t want to find my property divested. I don’t want to find that I’m chained to some edict that affects me but doesn’t actually affect some of the other people that lobbied for it. I get that. I can also under the arguments where people say to be a good global citizen we have a role to play. We have abided by every treaty. We’ve actually outdone what’s been asked of us. But in this process, it’s the Nationals, my colleagues in the party room, which will have their discussion with Minister David Littleproud and Minister Bridget McKenzie as the leadership team, being the Deputy Leader and the Leader in the Senate. We will make sure we convene a meeting and set down a process of how the Nationals will discuss this issue, so the people of regional Australia know it’s not just tick and flick for us, that it’s going to be a very serious discussion with some very, very strong views from both sides put to the room.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned Kyoto there and we’ve heard a lot from the Australian Farmers Federation that they’re really concerned Glasgow will go the same way, they just won’t be heard and there will be outcomes [indistinct]. What are your thoughts on those comments?

BARNABY JOYCE: Just so people know, what happened in Kyoto is they made their so-called equation work by taking a private asset that farmers had and just divesting them of it. Just basically stealing an asset like they stole your television set. That’s where a lot of the cynicism grows from. When we look at what is happening globally, we’ve got to remember there is an energy crisis not just in the UK and Europe but in China. In the UK and Europe and China. In the UK, power prices in the last year have gone up six-fold – six-fold. People are making a choice as to whether they eat or whether they heat their house. In China, lights are going out in factories. In Europe, they’ve got an energy crisis. So this would say not just to Australia but to the world, you’ve got to be mature, you’ve got to understand there’s ramifications of decisions, and they permeate right through. We see that now Boris Johnson’s going to build two new nuclear power plants. They’re going to take a while. What are people going to do between now and then? Just, you know, stay in their sleeping bag to keep warm? That’s not going to work. And as they go into Glasgow, Glasgow’s going to be mighty cold when they arrive there. And whilst they’re in Glasgow at a ballroom, there’s going to be other people in the back streets of Glasgow where they support Celtics or Rangers and they’re going to be cold. And they’re going to be asking questions about the price of their food. And they’re going to be asking questions about the competence and proficiencies of the government. And so any decision, any decisions that will be made, they better be mindful of the people who are cold in Glasgow. They better be mindful of the people in Berlin. They better be mindful of other people who are away from government, who live in houses and streets in Europe and in China because they’ll be saying, “You made the wrong decision. We’ll take it out of your political hide.”

JOURNALIST: When it comes to climate change with the net-zero target and what you’re developing [indistinct], do you know when that will be released?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s in the remit of the Prime Minister and he is the one who drives the process of cabinet and the process of discussion. We are a reflection of what happens in cabinet to take back to our party room. It’s always been policy of the Nationals – we are not saying anything new – that the Nationals party room, no individual – not myself, not David, not Bridget, no individual – will be the determinant of the policy. The views of the room will be the determinant of our position on the policy.

JOURNALIST: So plans are up for negotiation?

BARNABY JOYCE: I suppose if anything comes forward, it will be considered. That’s what we’re sent to Canberra to do. Not to have views on something you’ve never seen, but to deliberate over a document, have an intelligent conversation, to flesh out the concerns, to see if they can be addressed and then as a room come to an opinion, which will never encompass every person in the room. You’re always going to have people who just stand up and say, “I can’t agree with that.” And I get that, on both sides. But the room comes to a form of consensus or otherwise and I suppose that’s the call of the leadership group to say, “I see the position of the room, this is my interpretation of the views, basically in the majority, but not to every person and I therefore say that this is our position.”

SPEAKER: Probably just one more. Do you have one Sarah?

JOURNALIST: Do you think the next election will hinge on the Government’s climate policy, particularly in regional Queensland?

BARNABY JOYCE: No. I think the next election will hinge on the competency of government and will hinge on whether you’re going to have a job. It will hinge on whether you’re going to do things like building infrastructure in the area, not just concentrate on the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, as wonderful as those places are. Nothing wrong with them, it’s just that they’re not where the people live. People in regional areas are parochial as to whether the Government has attention to their lives and respect for the fact that they earn the export dollars that support the nation. They earn the dollars that come from the product that goes on the boat – all that product, your coal, your iron ore, your bauxite, your gold, your beef, your cotton, your wheat, your barley. This product comes from regional areas. Overwhelmingly, the export dollars that underpin your standard of living, that determine your term after trade, that buy your Toyotas and the fuel that’s in it and your mobile phone and the washing machine you wash in and your fridge that you put your stuff in, it all comes in on a boat from overseas. The people who put the product on the boat and send it in the other direction live here.

JOURNALIST: And just a final one – in regards to the rumour about your daughter, I guess what should be done to stamp out these social media rumours and trolls like this?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’m taking this very seriously. You picked a fight, you’re going to have a fight. Don’t think that this is just an op-ed and a cathartic explosion on my behalf but on behalf of all mothers and all fathers and all families who’ve had it, who have absolutely had it with the mental distress and the billions of dollars that we’re spending on mental health for which a part of is inspired by companies who are making billions of dollars, who have happy-face billionaires telling us how clever they are, who sit behind investment houses such as Morgan Stanley saying how clever they are. Big, massive companies, some of the biggest in the world. And in a room behind a screen is a teenage girl who’s having her life destroyed by anonymous people. Online we’re having like a kangaroo court. I’ll give you one example of the kangaroo court. This person’s been given a jail sentence. You know what? His site is still up there. The Taliban have a site. And we’re just saying, “This is all right, we can accept this”. These companies are saying they’re bigger than governments. I tell you what – on the road here I’ve been talking to some senior, senior solicitors, the top, top of their game, best. And I’m working with them. And I’ve been talking to the Prime Minister and we are as one. Sometimes the National Party and the Liberal Party differ, but not on this issue. Not on this one. This time the Prime Minister and myself – the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister – we’re going to deal with this. And I have been in communication with Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington who’s chairing the committee in the United States. A letter went off to her this morning via the embassy. She’s dealing with this. They say in the United States these firms are like big tobacco. That’s their words. Their words. They are just beyond any sort of control. I talked to the states as well. They’ve been passing some laws that sort of almost err towards giving them an even greater remit. This is going to change. This is going to change. It’s not going to just change in Australia, it’s going to change in the United States, it’s going to change. We’re going to take back this excessive remit that these companies have and make sure that they act as good citizens as both individuals and corporates. Because otherwise we have a pirate government, quasi government, doing what they want anonymously, destroying people’s lives, saying the most outrageous things. Remember, if they’re smart enough to do the computer coding that built these companies, then I think they’re smart enough to manage them.